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State of the Rockies

MISSION

Colorado College’s State of the Rockies project encourages students to explore critical environmental and social challenges of the Rocky Mountain West. Through faculty led research and out-of-classroom experiences, students gain an appreciation of the region’s physical characteristics and the impact of human land use activities while employing an inter-disciplinary approach to finding balance between human activity and our environment.                                             

Rockies 2019-2020 Project

Urbanization and Nature on the Front Range

Colorado's population is one of the fastest growing in the United States. Though many people are drawn here for the natural beauty and outdoor recreational opportunities offered in the state, rapid growth is putting pressure on these same resources. Climate change is further straining the state’s environment, and drought, floods, and forest fires threaten many of Colorado’s communities. Our current research explores the relationships among urbanization, nature, and climate change in Colorado.

One area of research we are undertaking looks at local and statewide initiatives to reduce carbon emissions through changing electricity production and transportation infrastructure. Research fellows are examining green transportation initiatives, particularly efforts to increasing electric vehicles across the state and local policies to enhance cycling infrastructure, both of which can improve public health and reduce the environmental impact of personal mobility. We are also examining efforts to reduce the cost and environmental impact of local energy production. As electricity production and transportation are major sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Colorado, these efforts have important implications for the overall environmental impact of our urban areas.

We are also examining ways that communities are preparing for a changing climate. This aspect of our research is examining the community assets that have helped agriculture dependent counties enhance resiliency in the face of drought and other threats to rural livelihoods; the variety of water transfer methods cities are adopting to secure a long-term urban water supply while supporting the needs of farmers and agricultural communities; and the political and technical challenges of city storm water management.

Overall, this year’s State of the Rockies project seeks to illuminate ways that actors in Colorado are rethinking our relationship to a changing climate and to understand how these changes can be built upon to create a more resilient region.

Rockies Research

2019 Research Fellows

MEET the Rockies Fellows

FellowsWebshot 19.20

Check their blog bulletins as they explore the challenges of changing climatic conditions in the Rocky Mountain Front Range


Rockies fellows SCORE at CC's 2019 Family and Friends Weekend faculty-student researchSCORE19.20 conference

State of the Rockies fellows presented their summer projects during this year's Student Collaborative Research Experience (SCORE) conference.  The Fellows' researched various topics across the Rocky Mountain Front Range  -- from bike lane controversies in Colorado Springs to drought response in agricultural communities in eastern Colorado.  Family and friends joined students, faculty, and staff in CC's Cornerstone Arts Center for this summer research symposium held annually during CC's Friends and Family Weekend.  View the fellows' posters:

Project Partners

Rockies 2019 Photo Finalists

CC student photos show conservation concerns in 2019 State of the Rockies photo contest

Aspen decline in Rocky Mountain National Park
by Margaux Rose '20

AndrewHildenbrand2MargauxRose2019photocontest

Ski industry and climate change: decrease in epic skiing?
by Andrew Hildenbrand '20

Conservation in the West poll


Climate Change:  A growing concern across the Rocky Mountain West

Colorado College State of the Rockies Project leaders rolled out the 2019 State of the Rockies Conservation in the West Poll on Jan. 31 in Denver at an outdoor recreation industry forum, presenting survey results that show rising public concern about water supplies and climate change. Listen to the live audio.   

State of the Rockies director Corina McKendry joined Gov. Jared Polis, conservationists and recreation industry officials at the forum and discussed the poll with journalists. Reporters from around the region phoned in to learn results of this poll that CC commissions each year.

It found that a majority of Colorado resicorina 2 poll 2019 OIA paneldents favor protecting the natural environment and wildlife. Fewer than 25 percent favor the increased production of fossil fuels using public lands that the Trump administration has prioritized. And the survey found that a majority want Congress to protect air, water quality and wildlife on public lands.

McKendry also served on an Outdoor Industry Association panel during a luncheon. A political scientist, McKendry conveyed the history and purpose of CC’s State of the Rockies Project and the poll. For more than a decade, CC students and faculty have looked into major environment issues playing out in the region.

Photo:  McKendry sits on luncheon panel with Outdoor Industry Association director Amy Roberts and Center for Western Priorities director Jennifer Rokala.

DavidSachsJordanVick 2019 OIAshowPublic opinion can play a role in shaping government policy. Poll results over the past decade show a consistent strong majority of western voters in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Montana, Idaho, Arizona and New Mexico consider themselves “conservationists.” This year, the poll found that 53 percent of Republicans and 87 percent of Democrats would support local fees or taxes to protect water, wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation opportunities.

McKendry told reporters that the poll findings reveal western values.  "That a leadership agenda out of step with those values is met with disapproval in the West is no surprise," McKendry said, “although the rejection of the current administration's priorities is particularly intense here."   Photo: Colorado College students Dave Sachs '20 and Jordan Vick '20 check out the Outdoor Industry Snow Show.  

Photos by Jennifer Coombes

Colorado College State of the Rockies project in the press                                                     

Listen to the krcc.org radio interview.  

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